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Kids’ shows, grown-up returns?
Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 has just signed a deal to create a range of children’s books in English and Arabic. But can entertainment aimed at the ‘little ones’ ever attract big money from Middle East advertisers and marketers?
March 4, 2010 1:14 by Ben Flanagan
Borg says that twofour54 intends to develop or help facilitate more “quality children’s content” following the Driver Dan deal, including its own Freej-style animation.
“We’re in the process of creating an Emirati-based animation at the moment. It’s geared towards children, but it’s not the same target market as Driver Dan’s. It’s for an older target market, and will be more contemporary than Freej,” Borg tells Kipp. “The children’s market is one of the larger markets, so from a return on investment perspective, it’s appealing.”
Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator of Freej, agrees that the Arab world has not created much in the way of localized children’s entertainment.
“When it comes to children’s entertainment in Arabic, overall it’s pathetic,” Harib tells Kipp, adding that parents are keen to teach their children foreign languages, and do so by showing them Western, rather than Arabic-language, TV shows.
“I’d love to make an animation for kids, but the TV stations wouldn’t support that, because the advertising money isn’t there for children’s content. [Advertising is] solely focused on FMCGs, the shampoos and deodorants, and there are not products there for children – or if there are, they’re not being advertised.”
However, not everyone agrees with Harib. Sunil John, chief executive officer of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the public relations consultancy behind the annual Arab Youth Survey, which is released on Sunday, says that children’s entertainment in the Arab world is far from ‘pathetic’.
“‘Pathetic’? I don’t think that’s true. Al Jazeera and MBC both have kids’ channels. There are pockets of serious innovation [in children’s entertainment],” says John, pointing to things like Majid – the children’s title published by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which he says is “probably one of the most successful Arabic magazines” – and The 99, the Islamic superhero series created by Kuwaiti psychologist Nayef Al Mutawa.